So far so good. Our little adventure on the other side of the world has been better than we could have possibly imagined with every new place surpassing our expectations. Our week in Gisborne was fabulous but it was now time to head down the coast to Napier.
Getting from Gisborne to Napier
Both Gisborne and Napier are on North Island New Zealand‘s east coast and around 140 miles apart. We’d booked an Intercity bus for the journey which was scheduled to take 4 hours along the twisty turny coastal road. We used Intercity a few times on our previous visit and they are so reliable, comfortable, and amazingly cheap that we’ve booked three more trips this time around.
Our lovely host Miriam dropped us at Gisborne iSite and we set off at 9am for Napier. The buses are all air-conditioned with free WiFi and loads of legroom so fairly comfortable even for a big lump like me. After a mid-journey stop at a strange little shack-bar we made our destination dead on time where our new host, Liz, had kindly offered to pick us up. These Airbnb hosts are something else you know, so kind and helpful.
Our home for the next week was south of the town (they call it a city here in NZ but we can’t get our head around that) where we had a private bedroom, bathroom, and living room in Liz and Steve’s lovely little house. They made us so very welcome and we spent several evenings socialising together but I’ll come on to that a bit later.
Napier sits in the Hawke’s Bay region right in the middle of one of New Zealands biggest wine-growing areas. It’s the largest wool centre in the southern hemisphere, produces the bulk of the country’s fruit, and ships tons of timber all over the world but none of that is what makes it so famous. In 1931 a huge earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit the city and virtually demolished the city centre and thousands of homes all around. Hundreds of people sadly lost their lives and the city had to be completely rebuilt. The fashionable style of the 1930s was undoubtedly art-deco and that is exactly how the city was rebuilt. Not just one building though, all of it!
Napier Marine Parade
Our favourite thing about staying in Napier was the walk from Liz and Steve’s place into the centre of town along the Marine Parade. It’s basically just the seafront esplanade but they have done so much with boardwalks and fountains and pieces of art that it’s just a joy to walk along.
The Bluff Lookout Hike
Being keen walkers or hikers or trampers as they call us down here we set off to get to Napiers highest point Bluff Lookout. It’s right on the edge of the harbour and the town so seemed like the perfect place to climb and get a view of absolutely everything. Perhaps we chose the wrong day however as it was screamingly hot when we left and passed McLean Park, Napiers cricket stadium, and walked through Nelson Park to the base of the worryingly named Hospital Hill. A steep sweaty climb up through the beautiful shady botanical gardens took us to the Old Napier Cemetery where we stopped for water and a brief look around.
It might seem a little gruesome but we both love looking around old cemeteries as they have so much history etched into every stone and tell a thousand stories that you can’t find anywhere else. Old Napier Cemetery went one better though as they had a huge notice board at the entrance with 15 incredible stories about some of the people laid to rest there. Fascinating.
The heat of the day was killing us so we pushed on down the other side of Hospital Hill and then up Bluff Hill. They couldn’t build a bridge across? Would that have been too much to ask? Reaching the top of Bluff Lookout we strutted pompously past those that had ‘driven’ up and celebrated with a picnic and some fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean and Hawke’s Bay. Especially interesting was the view of Napier docks below us, amazing to see the amount of timber being shipped out all around the world z zz zzz zzzz (sending you to sleep? I thought it was interesting anyway).
The trek down was easy peasy in comparison as we passed through Centennial Gardens on our way back into town. Past the famous Tom Parker Fountain and the impressively art deco Daily Telegraph building. It’s tricky in this town to pick out must-see significant places as almost every corner has something to see.
Weirdest Shop Ever!
Before we set off back down Marine Parade Jo dragged me into perhaps the worst shop in town, maybe in the whole country. Opossum World. This as you may well have guessed is a shop specialising in clothes made from possums. Scarves, jumpers, coats, hats, probably even underwear. It had it all. On top of that there were stuffed possums in display cases all over the shop and even a museum area at the back. More possums! I suppose there was a bit of an educational reason behind it but it was still seriously weird. Did you know that there were over 30 million possums in New Zealand? They eat over 21,000 tonnes of vegetation every single night! Serious pests that they are trying to control but failing.
On our way home, as that’s what each and every Airbnb is whilst we are staying there, we stopped at what was to become a favourite place. Rush and Munro’s Ice Cream bar. So many flavours and so little time. Between us on that first visit we enjoyed the following;
- Mint Choc Chip
- Coffee Walnut
- Hokey Pokey
- Ginger Nut
More flavours would most certainly follow over the next few days. We were well and truly hooked.
MTG Museum and Jo Dixey
Another wonderful sunny walk up the parade the following day as we headed for the MTG Museum in the heart of the town. We had two reasons for going. One because it looked like an interesting place and Two because it was free! We love a free admission. Well worth the walk with lots of history about Napier but the best part was an exhibition about the 1931 earthquake. Sad and interesting at the same time.
However, on our way out of the museum Jo spied a lady sitting by the entrance doing some sort of embroidery on a large wooden frame. She scooted over and engaged her in conversation and before I knew she was sitting next to her embroidering. I wandered over to find out what on earth was going on and within seconds was sat down with a tiny needle in my bear-like hands trying to avoid stabbing myself in the thumb!
The lady in question was called Jo Dixey and she had been commissioned to embroider a large piece and decided that she’d like as many members of the public to get involved as she could. So we sat and chatted for a while whilst the ladies embroidered and I stabbed myself repeatedly. Our names were added to her list and apparently we will forever be publicised as participants of the project. Interesting huh?
Really loving our time on the east coast as the weather has been unbelievable and there is so much to see and do. Napier has followed Gisborne in being an absolute delight and we are so looking forward to exploring more of it over the coming days.
30/11 – 01/12/2017